Palestrina: Stabat Mater a 8
This is the third disc in Harry Christopher’s series devoted to the works of Palestrina. The first (2011) focused on works praising the Virgin Mary, the second (2012) on Advent and Christmas, and this one is principally concerned with Lent and Eastertide.
The opening sequence, Stabat Mater, shows just what is admirable about this choir and the direction it receives. Throughout the 20 verses meditating on Mary’s feelings at the cross, every ounce of implied drama, of unsettled feeling, and of deep reflection is brought to bear on a performance of superbly crafted form, nuanced dynamics, overlapping phrasing and effortless tuning. Similar virtues can be heard in the lovely Vineam meam, and the magical Kyrie of the Missa Regina coeli. Not all of Palestrina’s works offer these kind of opportunities to singers. Si ignoras is a bit empty and relentless, and nothing much happens in the setting of the words of Terra tremuit (the earth trembled). In such abstract works we look to the fascination of the harmony and counterpoint, and in Confitebor tibi the exchanges between the voices, and the spinning out of the polyphonic lines are presented with pleasing clarity. In places the echoey acoustic slightly overwhelms the texture and the consonants of the words (Regina coeli a 8), but as The Sixteen get into this series they are warming to the task.